The Human Condition
What makes us human? How much of this is a part of our “nature” (e.g., biological hardware, chemistry, and physiological changes) and how much of it is due to how we are nurtured (our socialization, cultures, and social interactions)? This course explores some of the most central aspects of
the human condition and asks, “What makes us tick?” The class explores competing paradigms derived from a combination of studies and research from biology, medicine, psychology, sociology, economics, anthropology, archaeology, and historical observation. The structure of the course is inspired by the
concept of a “hierarchy of needs”—beginning with essential “lower order” aspects of the human condition moving up toward the problems and issues that are more often the focus of life once the essentials of life have been obtained. The course challenges the notion that 21st century human beings
are all that different from those that existed in 100, 1,000, or even 10,000 years ago. It also seeks to understand how human behavior can vary so much across cultures now. Reading material for the course also includes a combination of original source excerpts from the world’s religious and legal texts, and
philosophers and scientists such as John Locke, René Descartes, B.F. Skinner, John Watson, Sigmund Freud, Karl Marx, Charles Darwin, Adam Smith, Sun Tzu, Niccolò Machiavelli, Edward O. Wilson. Lecture and the course readings are supplemented with suggested journal articles including current research as
well as multimedia excerpts on each week’s topics.
Note: This course meets the Culture and Social Sciences Core Area requirements and a Humanities Concentration Elective requirement.